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Pittsburgh police beat music student who performed for Obama

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Over half a century ago, Emmett Till's mother made the tough decision to have an open casket funeral for her son. It was a horrible sight. When asked why she made that choice, his mother said, "I want the world to see what they did to my baby."

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The picture presented here is disturbing. It was taken recently by Terez Miles. She wants to know why her son, Jordan Miles, was brutally beaten by Pittsburgh police. It is hard to look at this picture. But as parents, how can we look our children in the eyes if we turn away when someone else's child is in trouble?

Jordan Miles is an honors student at Pittsburgh's Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) Magnet School. When Michelle Obama and Yo-Yo Ma visited the school last year, Jordan was one of the students performing for them.

The more details that emerge, the more outrageous this story becomes

The facts that are currently being reported are as follows:

Jordan Miles was walking to his grandmother's house late in the evening of January 12, 2010 when he was approached by three officers in plain clothes saying,

"Where's the money?" "Where's the gun? Where's the drugs?"

Unaware they were officers, Miles says he ran away for fear of his safety before being chased down and being beaten, kicked, choked, and having his hair ripped out.

The officers contend they thought he had a gun in his pocket but said it turned out to be a bottle of Mountain Dew.

Miles denies those claims and says nothing was in his pocket and he rarely drinks Mountain Dew.

The teenager,an honors student at the prestigious magnet school, has no record of any previous problems with police, teachers, or administrators. Miles faces a preliminary hearing Feb. 18 on charges of aggravated assault and resisting arrest on accusations that he fought the officers but says all he did was try to get away from three men he thought were trying to abduct him. The police officers also claim they believed he was on drugs, although he tested negative for any drugs.

His mother's believes the police officers, Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak beat him without provocation, then concocted a story because there was nothing to justify their behavior.

The city is taking this seriously. The mayor has weighed in. Members of Pittsburgh's City Council are demanding the police release the dashboard camera from the officer's vehicle. The FBI is also investigating.

The story is getting covered in Pittsburgh for obvious reasons. But this story needs to get broader circulation. It is just the latest in a long line of such outrageous stories. We have seen numerous reports of police officers in various jurisdictions using excessive force with minimal repercussions. People have been using tasers inappropriately. About a year ago, on New Year's Eve, a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer shot an unarmed man in cold blood in front of a train load of witnesses at a station in Oakland. Police officers in Prince George's County, Maryland in recent years have shot and killed several unarmed men. In every case, they havebeen cleared of their actions. It is easy to dismiss these as "isolated incidents" but that would be a mistake. We know these cases are under-reported.

It is ironic this is happening in Pittsburgh. It was not too long ago that a Glenn Beck fan shot and killed police officers because he believed the propaganda about big guvmint coming to take away his guns. But that underscores the importance of corralling the wingnuts, regardless of whether or not they are carrying badges in addition to their guns. The officers who died gave their lives serving the community. The officers that abuse the trust of the community make a mockery of that sacrifice.

Rogue police officers do more than damage relations with the community. They put their fellow officers at risk. They create rifts within their own department. They undermine the work of fellow officers and other public officials who rely on the cooperation of citizens to perform their jobs. They may have beaten the hell out of just one kid, but that takes its toll on everyone.

Studies of police violence consistently show only a few percent (somewhere between 2 and 4 percent) of all police officers engage in this sort of vigilante behavior. However, it is also commonly found that the majority of officers who engage in vigilante behavior have prior histories of multiple complaints for excessive force. All of the officers involved in this assault have been on the Pittsburgh force for five years. If there is anything in their records that points towards a history of abuse, then the problem is no longer three rogue cops. The system itself has a problem and that means we are all at risk.

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For starters, I am not the Henry Porter who writes for the Observer in Britain. I'm a native New Yorker living in Maryland. I used to believe knowledge was power. Now I know knowledge translated into action is power.
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